On a recent trip to Florence we booked our final nights dinner at the 1 Michelin star restaurant, Ora d’Aria. Ora d’Aria (meaning ‘hour of air’) first took its name from when the restaurant opened, at a previous location, opposite a prison. Guests dined whilst the inmates took advantage of their daily exercise hour. New location and new meaning, we are told ’hour of air’ now focuses on their patrons time spent at the restaurant…they want to ensure each guest is exposed to tradition, innovation and elegance created by one of Italy’s leading chefs, Marco Stabile.
What we love about Stabile is that he is from Tuscany, and whilst he has developed his skills in some of Italy’s finest kitchens, he has remained in Tuscany and allowed us, the punters, to experience some of the most amazing Italian cuisine to have passed our lips.
The restaurant is tucked away from the main tourist routes and has a modern decor and feel, positioned over two levels, we sat on the smaller lower floor ogling the extensive wine cellar that yelled to be explored. With an air of typical fine-dining it took us a little while to relax and break through the low whispers exuding from the other tables. The downstairs area made it feel a little disconnected from the main restaurant, a much somber vibe, but whilst we mingled with a handful of beautiful people, Russian oligarchs and first daters, after a few wines the sound levels increased offering a more pleasant ‘buzz’.
We both decided to sample the €75 tasting menu. Our friendly waiter carefully explained each course and was even happy to consult with the kitchen to accommodate a dish change – we had never been, nor never will be, a rabbit fan, sorry. Word of warning. We counted 7 different dishes so don’t fill up on the delicious bread basket, as tempting as it was, which was refilled during the evening!
With a glass of champagne in-hand we were served a plate of hors d’oeuvres consisting of a savoury Madeleine, candied pork belly and beef tartare with truffle. A perfect start to our meal that worked so well with our bubbles.
An amuse-bouche of mushroom puree followed and set the ‘earthy’ flavours and tone for our evening menu.
Starter (yes this is where the menu actually kicks-in) was a stunning dish of egg en meurette, Tuscan style, with a chianti wine reduction, wild herbs and confit of black truffle.
This was followed by a flavoursome and light spring onion soup with Burrata cheese and small pieces of pasta cooked in coffee.
Our ‘first’ course was an amazing ‘earthy’ flavoured risotto, written on the menu as ‘risotto with topsoil flavour and undergrowth: remembering my father’ – thanks papa Stabile for the inspiration! We can’t describe it, it was however perfection to the palate.
‘Second’ course (and we were starting to breath a little heavier by now) was a mouth-wateringly black cabbage breaded beef with celeriac puree and strawberry powder. Another ‘wow’ dish.
Bursting at the seams we realised we still had cheese and dessert to go so, with a well earned pause, we relaxed to soak up the atmosphere (thank god for air conditioning) whilst we reminisced about our holiday in beautiful Tuscany before tackling the selection of Tuscan cheeses, served with warm pan brioche.
Bordering on feeling comatosed we ‘reluctantly’ ordered dessert: a homemade tiramisu and a strawberry mousse. Both were bursting with flavour but the mousse had to be one of the best desserts ever; sharp, sweet and tangy strawberry flavours tantalised the tongue! Word of advice: Never order dessert reluctantly!
What an experience, and what a perfect way to end our holiday. Looking forward to sleep via a leisurely stroll through the quaint cobbled-stoned streets of Florence, we ordered a shot of energy (espresso) which arrived with a selection of finger pastries…by this stage we couldn’t look at anymore food and to be honest, we can’t remember if we even tasted them…bill was ordered and we stumbled up the stairs and out into the cool air (we lie, it wasn’t cool with the heatwave that had hit Europe…we wished it was cool but that sounded so much more poetic), so it was a little hard to work out if the ‘sweats’ were from the heat or the amount of food we had managed to consume? We guess both.
We had a few Florence restaurant recommendations, and we thank everyone for those, but we have to admit Ora d’Aria was a fantastic find and we would highly recommend it to anyone passing through Florence looking for traditional Italian cuisine packed with colour and flavour. And of course you can always order off the a la carte menu but we highly recommend the tasting menu if you are gluttons like our good selves…”when in Rome” and all that (well close enough)!
Via dei Georgofili, 11, 50122 Firenze, Italy